Hello. We lost a Good Man, My Friends. I was crafting this personal history of Dave and I to present to him when he was feeling better. Something so he was fully sure of the impact he had on my life and the life of the countless others he called ‘Brother’. It’s personal, full up on references earned over a 35 year friendship.
These days have had me reflecting on the past, the meat of what mattered and how I got here. And as I gaze back at what would be my most full moments, you were there, stage right, holding it down, joyous, celebratory, a quick grin between us when the harmonies hit just right and the song sails. This brings me back to the very beginning. Verillis garage.
This is where we met. And I remember it all, the state of the clutter, the too small space the blue aria pro, Vic smashing shit like a Muppet, the irrepressible Verilli acting every inch of his eventual occupation (not the drug store, the LA Hair Metaler) , you focused and concise…and so fucking young. I was too but I don’t see me here. I see you. Fuck you looked 15 but played like 50. I still remember the swells of Remember Tomorrow, the barnstorming of Tyrant. I remember the feel of really doing it, really singing into that mike, barking, and all my dogs barking with me. And Mrs Verilli. A true cartoon dragon of there ever was one, we, hard teens, metal heads, drinkers, druggers fuckers all hiding silently and wide eyed when she got home.
We were the classic 80’s movie that we did not know would be classic…cause it was the 80’s. We fought the popular kids with their poofy hair and van halen set. All the girls went dewy at the very site of Drew and the boys. And we brought pure fire. Pure anger. Purity. These are not our songs but you motherfuckers are going to hear them anyway. Loud. Fuck you all.
And I flash forward a year, a year of beginnings, a year of you blowing my mind in Scots basement with every new song you learned the night before. Yes songs. BOC songs. It was really intimidating.
You have always been like that, or appeared that way. Focused. Cocksure. Correct. I’m sure you had doubts. I’m sure you had fears. But they never crossed your face or spun up your voice, in song or in jest.
One year later, one year of basement playing, one year of focus to do what we always wanted to do: not simply ROCK but rock with songs these people should know. The UFO set. Rock Bottom, the room would fall away and its you and that solo… Let It Roll. Only You Could Rock Me (Rock Me). We won that night.
Afterward I remember Wizards Lament….my first official song and how everyone came together and started adding their parts. And I remember it all falling apart. You hooked up with Scot, we became a cover band, I started the Basement Apes with Fetcho.
And this was the part where you became my nemesis. It’s a place of honor. While we wiled away our mornings and late evenings writing, recording, The Rafter Bats ascended. I think it would be a little late in the game to say I was coooool with that. I was jealous, plain and simple. You created something that had not been created yet, much less mass produced and genrefied. You were the first Bluegrass Rock and Roll band and it drove me mad.
I will always remember the moment I heard you on WPKN, the whole band playing some live tunes on a Saturday morning. And it sounded amazing…groundbreaking. And I called you at the station. I was out on the air with you. And captured the most uncomfortable 5 minutes of radio in existence. I’m counting the Hinderberg, by the way. I said ‘Hey!; and heard grumbles and very guarded responses from you and Dennis. It was hilarious. Soon after I caught your act in Greenfield Hill in Fairfield, that farmers market and we were in communication again.
Thing is….I drew such inspiration…such pride,..that you liked what I did. It wasn’t simply anyone liked it…it was you. And I knew you were no bullshit so your not going to bother aligning with me if you did not believe in what I was doing., And that made me press farther, push harder. And when I shared the tapes of what I had been doing, The Great Upsetters came to life.
It’s a mystery to me why that band did not go farther, and this time it was not from lack of trying. But fuck man…the times we had. The Post Office bar in Bridgeport with the undertaker bartender (Tins sister, if I remember) and the hookers and the crack addict. And this was one of those moments that meant the world to me. That empty bar, half the band tripping on acid, the other half hopelessly drunk, and when we kicked into Like A Rolling Stone…a song I don’t believe we ever played before and barely knew the words between the 5 of us….and when we started that, that 5 person draw sang like a crowd of 1000’s. Everyone screamed every word.
I don’t know if we got paid that night. I don’t know anything about that night except for that moment and the raw feelin of being fucking alive and sharing something with folks who wanted it.
And somehow we feel into the Ticketmaster National Showcase. Christ, remember that set? I bet you could still play it without much encouragement. We had it down to a super tight 38 minutes. What was it…10 songs? With the intro and outro of The Great Upsetters, the funky darkness of Something Missing, the sweet harmony of Whose Really Where. I was always proud at how we worked. We jammed hard but were never a jam band. We were focused to serve the song, that was the endgoal, and that was what we did.
The one moment you missed from that night was me changing for our set at the Holiday Inn and coming down the elevator, Phil Mogg walked in. I was in my fucking stage gear. I had to say something. And I did. En quote ‘ omg, Your Phil Mogg, your my hero and my band of UFO worshipers is just about to play a set for a national contest across the street and your band is the reason’….I said it likely faster than that with my eyes likely spinning around like a googly doll. He was polite, amused, and thanked me and wished us well.
Then onto the show. Another of these moments that I look back on and you were there right next to me. We killed it. A perfect set. Girls screaming like the fucking Beatles. Magic. Just the wrong decade. 5 years later our 70’;s worship would have been hip again. Right outfit, wrong year.
Hopi Fest. This was not something amazing musically…it just showed what an original bunch of crazy crackers we were. We stormed that stage long past anyone wanting to hear it. But we did not care. This was The Upsetters…and by definition anything the Upsetters wanted to do they did.
And the end of the Upsetters. I broke up bands for the same reason I am writing from a day job today versus my yacht…fear of success. I know it was me. I would start to think all artisty and start thing of something that would fulfill me.
I did not know then these memories would hold and hold me to answer for. I did not expect to live this long.
And I made my solo record with the invaluable help of more Hogan stock, Bill Becker. I got to know Bill pretty well during the GU year in his role of…well everything. And he was a killer bass player and partner for me. I miss him right now, even as I write this. He was a good man without any of that icky goodness that corrupts good men and makes them dull.
While Graylight Campfire ascended. Prick.
I remember a gig DayDrug did with Graylight (which I don’t think I dreamed…but who knows?) and introducing you as my friend was a point of pride. By that point, we were not simply friends. My family has not been as much family as you have. I know that sounds strange. I do not make a lot of friends. Its not a plan, a design, just a circumstance of being self obsessed.
But you are my friend. You are beyond that. We became brothers on this trip.
You have a lot of brothers, Dave, A lot of people who believe in you. Enough people who admire you. You are a beloved commodity. You inspire such…reverence when your name comes up. You think Im being fancy, but I assure you are not. It’s a shame we never really know our standing till standing is no longer an option.
This month….. I looked at what I have accomplished in my life as an artist…and I had some successes…and you were there beside me, holding it down, holding us up, bringing that unmistakable but astral tone in your sound, in your very soul.
A lot of people love you, Dave. Admire and love. You need to know that. I don’t think we ever get this explained to us when we need it, so consider me Professor X: Nothing is the same after you. You are legendary and that will grow with everyone who ever knew you.
Then Grimm. I stand by the fact that my favorite period of GG was the trio. You and Me and CC…meeting imitation Bill Clintons, playing the always drama packed Swan gigs, the video for Nothing Astral…your PART on Nothing Astral still one of my faves off the cuff Hoganisms…… recording up in Storrs with Dennis along, Fuck….. Graylight / GG set at Ideat Village which…Wow…….
I mean…we created a form of rock and roll, something that was compact but fully loaded, 3 people, 2 with instruments. And a set of songs honed down and fine tuned.
Then Lys. Seeing you two sing those Gram songs was….incredible. You too added something into them that the countless covers missed…maybe it was a true love, maybe it was revelry….. but I felt like I had a hand in something good by putting you two in the same room. I know she thinks the same thing. I always picture us in that horrible sounding space museum…. And the Daffodil Fest, with you and Lys on the remarkable non rainy Daffy day. The 2 Boots shows.
On that point….the picture. The picture taken at Café Nine of just you and me on stage. Of when you were doing an early acoustic set and I cam down. A Friday I believe. How when I saw you…and you saw me….every wrinkle of the past had faded, every sharp left turn evens out….. and it was meeting an old friend and it took that moment for me to really recognize the trip you and I had been on. We were older men then…older still now…but we just grined at each other with a look like ‘well that was a time, eh”…and played the Upsetters songs, near perfect.
Cause our harmonies……was something beyond talent or skill…there is an understanding on how our instruments bend and warp around each other. That’s history in action. Its beauty in repose.
Anyway…the GG machine rolled on, now with you in place for the Big Fame record and shows. Yes, I regret not having you on Dizzy. Yes, I regret not having you on every track. But the shws…the radio play, culminating in the big time times 2: playing for the Tom Tom Club and WPKN Sunday Brunch.
I still laugh when I think about you at McLevy hall, being wholly UNIMPRESSED by the literal Rock stars watching. It impressed me and CC and I were always good for a star fucking. And GG was gone. Poof.
Onto me beginning of this phase of my life (while Graylight ascended…did I say prick? I did? Cool) which started with Zen. Not in a literal sense…I was insane at the time. But you were there too. You were there with the necessary rock and roll Dave/J back up on Last Days Of Rome….the real picture of how talented experimental you were on the ebow shit which really made those tracks.
But what I recall best is the radio show. Me coming on to introduce Zen on your WPKN show. Still on my soundcloud as I listen to it from time to time. Not to hear me, monitor my performance. To hear Us.
It is a conversation shared publicly of you and me just talking shit, not sharing secrets that we both know. There is a love in this conversation and this interview sits upon things I am proud of. Cause we were brothers, separated by bold, by circumstance, miles, poverty. Our dreams glimmered gold while our wallets got lost. 2 men coming from the same war, and an easy acceptance of what we have been dealt.
Now…not so easy. Cause this is not fair. This is not right anymore. I could listen to that conversation forever. It is friends. Veterans of the same psychic wars. One still more practical than the other. My madness tethered by your cool. An amazing team. A perfect match.
Except my art made me want to try everything on the plate while your steady hand held the rutter and kept you focused on the horizon where everything glimmered like a future coming.
I am an eccentric and you are a working man.
But it is not fair, make no mistake.
I did it. I wrote that record. The Mott one. The one where you get to be in the sainted seat of music director…some singing….real rock and roll shit. Its about everything I out down here. The trials and tribulations of limonene dreams.
I wrote it with the clear image of some future stage where your standing stage right and leading the band through the songs…you have a smile on your face…it looks like peace.